"> What is a stainless steel service panel for above ground pools – Above Ground Pools Know it All

What is a stainless steel service panel for above ground pools

Good quality above ground swimming pools can easily last for ten plus years. They can look bad by being rusty, discolored, off level, and out of shape, but still stay up and work well as a pool.

The number one reason an above ground pool has to be replaced is when the wall of the pool corrodes or rusts through. This is where a stainless steel service panel comes into play.

A stainless steel service panel for an above ground pool is an approx. four-foot removable section of the wall where the skimmer and return openings are, and is made of stainless steel material.


stainless service panel for above ground pool

Above ground pools can have three kinds of walls. There is the soft-sided pool you pay just a few hundred dollars for. Usually buy at Wal-Mart which has walls made of a synthetic canvass material. These are very cheaply made, throw away pools that usually last a season or two. They can’t have a service panel.

Then there is the high-end extruded aluminum above ground pools that are designed to go partially in the ground. These are maybe the opposite of the Wal-mart soft-sided pool. These pools are uncommon, cost thousands, and are made to last for decades. They don’t need a service panel.

In the middle of the above extremes are the traditional metal-walled above ground pools. These pools are lasting, economical, and what is considered the “normal” or traditional above ground swimming pool.

So, this common above ground pool has a metal wall made from a continuous roll. This means the wall is one long piece that you roll out and fit into place into a bottom track. This continuous roll wall is thin and made out of either steel or aluminum. Both metals can corrode or rust.

A service panel is a section of the wall of the pool where the skimmer and return fitting attaches to the pool. It is bolted from top to bottom to both ends of the continuous roll metal wall of the pool.

Because this four-foot-long piece of wall is bolted to the rest of the continuous roll, it is designed to be replaced in case it gets rusty.


Unless modified, there are only two openings in the wall of an above ground pool. Those two openings are the skimmer and return, and they are next to each other. In any kind of pool, be it concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl, the openings are where the leaks most likely happen.

The most common area an above ground pool leaks is at one of these two openings in the wall. And if the leak goes unfixed, the wall will corrode or rust to the point where it can’t hold the water in and the pool will burst open and die.

Now, if this common leak area (where the skimmer and return are located) of the wall is removable and replaceable, then if there is rust, only that area can be replaced instead of the entire wall. This is why it is called a “service panel”. Because it can be serviced or replaced.


I can’t recall the exact year I first saw a service panel. It was more than twenty-five years ago. I was installing pools mainly for a company called Recreational Factory Warehouse and sold mostly pools made by Wilbar. To my knowledge, Wilbar was the first to come out with the service panel.

As an installer back then, I didn’t like the service panel. This was only because it added an extra step to installing the pool wall. A service panel has to be bolted to the rest of the one-piece wall of the pool, so that took an extra 5-10 minutes.

Those first service panels were awesome though. They were all longer and made of very thick stainless steel. I occasionally have come across one of these early service panels, and they are still in perfect condition.

This was one of the best ideas for above ground pools ever brought to reality. After seeing so many pools die prematurely because the wall rusted out underneath the skimmer or return. By having that part of the wall made of a material that would never rust through was pure genius.

A decade or so later, I started seeing service panels made out of aluminum instead of stainless steel. This was because the cost of stainless steel is considerably more than anything else. This was also stupid as thin aluminum will corrode just a fast as a regular steel wall, so it wasn’t gaining anything.

In the last ten years, I’ve seen a lot of service panels made out of the same exact material as the rest of the pool’s wall. This is almost a complete waste of time. Why? Because service panels aren’t very replaceable.


So, now we currently have pools with service panels made of materials that can rust out or corrode to the point where they will split. That wouldn’t matter as much if the panels were easily replaced, but they aren’t.

“In the 34 years of installing and servicing above ground pools, I have never successfully replaced a service panel”

Service panels are usually not replaceable. The main reason for this is it can be impossible to remove the existing bolts that attach it to the rest of the wall. Wall bolts are usually not made of stainless steel. This means that in the short span of a couple of years, the non-stainless steel bolts and nuts (used mainly in Wilbar pools) will not come apart. And cutting them off can easily result in damaging the wall of the pool.

Also, depending on the age of the pool’s service panel, it could be a different length. And to replace a service panel, you need the exact replacement. A longer or shorter, or one with a different bolt pattern will not work.


Above ground swimming pool wall where the return fitting goes showing a rusty and splitting wall underneath it
This pool had to be replaced because of a leaking return fitting. A stainless steel panel would’ve avoided this.

Since chances are you won’t be able to replace a service panel, it needs to be made of a material where it will never need to be replaced. Stainless steel is the only material that will never rust through.


Service panel for an above ground pool that is not made of stainless steel.
This panel is NOT made of stainless steel

This isn’t to drive a point home here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve installed a pool with a service panel that wasn’t made of stainless and the pool owner thought it was. Make sure the description says “stainless steel” for the service panel.

A great example of this is Pinch-A-Penny. Pinch-A-Penny stores sell a great Wilbar pool with great equipment. And their upgraded model has a service panel, but it’s made with the same steel as the rest of the wall.

Now, I’ve got nothing against Pinch-a-Penny, however, on many occasions, the pool owner thought the panel they bought was made of stainless steel. And it wasn’t.

You pay more for your pool because it has a service panel. If it’s not made of stainless steel, then you’re paying extra for nothing.


Stainless steel service panel attached to the wall of an above ground swimming pool
Stainless panel bolts to pool wall on both sides

When buying an above ground swimming pool, there are a few options available to make it better or last longer. And out of those things, my opinion is that the stainless steel service panel option is the best money you can spend.

With a stainless panel, you don’t have to worry about your pool bursting open because there’s been a leak at the skimmer or return fitting. You should, of course, get any leak fixed as soon as possible. Often times though, people will have a small leak at the skimmer or return on the inside of the wall and not know it.

With a stainless steel panel, it can leak there for years and all that will happen is the stainless will turn a white color. It will never rust through though.

RANDOM NOTE: If you have a stainless steel service panel are are wanting to add and extra return jet, do not try to cut the hole for the new jet in the stainless wall panel. It is not easy to make a hole in stainless steel. Make your hole in the regular part of the wall next to the panel instead.


Dan writes with the knowledge of having 35 years (and counting) in the above ground pool industry.

10 thoughts on “What is a stainless steel service panel for above ground pools

    1. That is not good. This is usually from a skimmer leak big enough and occurring long enough for the leaking water to travel to that area from the inside of the wall and rust it out. Most of the time when I see this, it’s just the area where the bolts are that is rusted and will hold for years. If rusted through the wall farther away though, it’s probably time for a new pool. You could do a wall repair by adding a new piece of wall, but that is a major repair and one that should be done by someone very experienced.

  1. I am an aircraft sheet metal technician who is now working on swimming pools and have a pool that has blown out at the skimmer can I repair that pool with a stainless steel service panel and if so do you have the whole pattern for the splice

    1. If you mean that you have to insert a new piece of wall from top to bottom, then yes you do. And you’ll want to bolt the new piece of wall from top to bottom on both sides(just like your existing pool wall connects together).

  2. I own a 24’x52” Morata Pool I believe made by Wilbur. This year would make 9 years if we ever get to open it. I am afraid to do so for my family being the wall at the Skimmer and return line are rusty and I am afraid it may let loose this season. I am located in Central New Jersey. I don’t know where you are located but I am interested in a Stainless Steel Service Panel to replace this steel one. This is our 2nd Above ground 24’ Round Pool since 1989. Our first Above Ground Pool came with a Stainless Steel Service Panel and we got 23 years out of that first pool. I can’t install it myself at 71 years old so I would need a Pool Repairman that knows what he is doing to do the job. The pool is still holding water and it is still has its Pool Cover on. Let me know if you can handle this or know of someone else here in the NJ area. Located in Somerset,NJ.

    1. Hi. I am in Orlando, so it’s a no go for me. I think you will have a hard time (bordering on impossible) finding someone who can do this job. This requires a high degree of knowledge plus I have never seen Wilbar sell stainless panels only, so getting your hands on one would be very difficult. And with being the summer, any guy who knows his stuff will be swamped with installs until fall.

      If you can find a pool guy who will do this job using a regular piece of steel (or a piece of a pool wall), then that would be fine. Just making sure that the skimmer and return line isn’t leaking will make the new wall piece last for ten plus years even though it’s not stainless.

      1. Thanks for getting back to me. Where can I purchase a Stainless Steel service Panel? Need to know in case I find someone who can do the job and they want me to get what is needed.

        1. Finding one to buy is hard. In the past, I was only able to get one from Wilbar through the distributor because we were selling their pools. And that wasn’t easy. I have no idea where to get one now.

          1. I can’t even get Pool Repair people to call me back and today is June 7,2022. I really hate to have to buy another New pool so soon but it is looking more like that everyday. The 24′ Round Wilbar Morada Pool just made 9 years old and still looks like new except for the Skimmer Panel that is also the Return Line Panel. No rust anywhere on the outside of the pool anywhere else that I can see all around. I must admit in the first 3 years of owning this Wilbar Pool the Top Rails starting rusting really bad and the 50 year warranty they bragged about didn’t help much in getting replacements. At the time I had a choice to go the same route with Vinyl Covered Steel Top Railings as replacements or go with Resin Railings. I bit the bullet and purchased the more expensive Resin Railings. Wish I knew about them when I purchased the pool in late 2012 at the end of the season. I should of known better to ask buying my second replacement pool being our first pool metal top railings rusted away also. Luckily my pool installer at the time was still around and had spares he sold me altough they didn’t match in color it kept my pool going for 23 years only because that pool our first had a Stainless Steel Service panel. Anyway the Replacement Resin Railings still look great 6 years later. So I may need to buy a new replacement pool by itself not needing a Filter System. Will start getting some prices this week. Number one it has to come with a Stainless Steel Service Panel and number 2 ResinTop Railings. I won’t buy anything else. Will have to see what it cost to go with a New replacement Pool with installation. I see on Ebay there is a Pool company selling Plain Steel Pool Wall Service Panels something I really don’t want to buy and they are expensive. 52″ x 6′ Above Ground Pool Wall Repair Kit Brand New $562.88 Buy It Now+$91.90 shipping. Did the math with tax that is $700.00. Not counting the labor it will cost me to have it installed and at that point they will probably want to put a ***new liner*** in the pool although this one still seems to be in good shape. Back in 2012 without labor or materials such as a load of sand dropped off the Wilbar Morada Pool alone cost me $1455.19 with Tax. That was without a Filter system being I had one already or Pool Installation labor.

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